Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Washington Post Hunt 2011

Two weekends ago Paul and I participated in the fourth annual Washington Post Hunt in downtown DC. We've been looking forward to this since we got back to the states and saw that it was going to be in June. When we were living here in 2008 we participated in the first Washington Post Hunt and had a blast. 

The hunt is a citywide brainteaser that has participants running around for 3 hours trying to solve five ridiculously hard puzzles which each result in a number. Those 5 numbers are the clues for the "end game" an even more ridiculously hard puzzle that someone will eventually solve and win the game. 

Sounds easy right? Ha!

So on Sunday morning we read through our Washington Post Magazine. This is a crucial piece to participating in the hunt, as this magazine holds the map with all the potential coordinates.

The rest of the magazine is normal with the standard articles, any of which could hold clues to the puzzles, but what they might be is anyone’s guess.

We arrived about 30 minutes early to the starting area down near Federal Triangle and picked up our goodie bag. The information that came with the goodie bag was that some of the items in the bag may be helpful and some may just be to throw us off track. So we examined our goodies to see what we got!

At noon the creators of The Hunt, syndicated columnists Dave Barry and Gene Weingarten and the Washington Post editor Tom Shroder, came on stage to give us the map coordinates of the puzzles. Coordinates received and we headed out with the thousands of other hunters.

First puzzle: We arrived at the Navy Memorial and Hunt volunteers were handing out scratch cards with lots of letters. As you were given a card you were told “the pound signs mean nothing” and then on top of the card it stated, “Scratch ONLY where needed”. And those were the clues.

Second puzzle: We arrived to find a group of people gathered around a furniture display. No other clues…except wait, the furniture display is the exact display that was in one of the Magazine articles.

Third puzzle (no pictures due to way to many people in my way!): Outside the news museum there was an acrobat doing different contortions. After about 3 minutes she would stop and say “You didn’t come here to see my show, you came here for a clue. Put on your thinking caps. I’m going to give you a password, text it to 98999.” Then she stood on her head and said “The password is Lemons”.

Fourth puzzle: Back at the main stage, which now had the banner: Government Agencies Providing Solutions, there were three people, each wearing a number, answering questions. The first person always answered the questions with a spin towards paying taxes. The second person answered questions with a spin towards disaster and emergency preparedness. And the third persons answers always discussed farming and agriculture. 

Fifth puzzle: Over at the ellipse we encountered a large number of black boxes 5 of which were labeled with these numbers: 1&3, 2, 4, 5&6, 7.

So once we solved those 5 puzzles (ha!) and filled in our paint-by-number grid with the answers, we headed back to the main stage for the final clue which should link all 5 clues for the “end game”.

Final clue: A Beatles tribute band came onto the stage and each Beatle sang a part of a song. We were told one of the Beatles would give us the clue. 
     Paul – When I’m 64
     John – Tea for Two
     George – Taxman
     Ringo – 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

So at this point we are completely clueless! So we decide to just follow people who looked like they knew what they were doing. We did end up at the first part of the end game, where we called a number and were given another clue, but alas, we had no idea what to do after that.

So back at the main stage we found out that there were actually 4 teams who were able to figure it all out. We thought we had more correct answers going into the end game but we only had 2 out of 5!


First puzzle: The Scratch Card. Man we struggled over this one, we made it way harder than it should have been and we never came up with an answer. So the clue was “scratch ONLY where needed”. What do you scratch? An itch. One of the words on the card spelled itch. Scratch those letters and what do you get the number 0816.

Second puzzle: Furniture display. We really thought we had this one, but we were waaaay off on the wrong track. So the furniture display was the same one as in the magazine, with a difference – there was no mirror in the vanity in the one we were looking at but there was one in the magazine. So you had to remove the mirror. Tear it out of the magazine, and lo and behold you can now see that on the next page there is an article about a 45 speed LP record with the number 45 right smack dab in the middle of the vanity mirror area.

Third puzzle: The acrobat. We actually got this one! We texted Lemons to the number provided and received this message back “Sorry, it’s not that easy”. So since she gave us the password while on her head, we turned LEMONS upside down and got SNOW37. Texted that to the number and received this message back “WE”. Turn the phone upside down a you get a 3M, map coordinates! So look at our handy dandy map and head off to those coordinates and find a big 61. Now 61 is not a number that is on our paint by number grid, so now what. Well turn it upside down and you get 19.  Yay, solved one!

Fourth puzzle: Government Agencies Providing Solutions. We were close on this one, but screwed up a bit. If you recall, one of the goodies in our goody bag was a fill sheet of paper that said GAPS – fill in the blanks followed by:
F_ _ _ T    _ _ _ _ L E    P L _ _    _ _ T E
The speakers were talking about:
            Taxes – IRS
            Disaster and Emergencies – FEMA
            Farm and Agriculture – USDA
Fill in those blanks and you get: FIRST FEMALE PLUS DATE.
The first female on the stage was wearing a number 27 + the date June 5 (6/5).  27+65=92

Fifth puzzle: The black boxes. We got this one pretty quickly. The 7 foot black boxes were lined up in the shape of a keyboard. When you drew out a keyboard and looked at the specific keys that were labeled with numbers: ETIFN and put those letters in the order of the numbers you get FIFTEEN. 15.

End Game: So with those numbers you were supposed to fill out your paint-by-number grid and see what picture appears. It turns out to be a small house with a crescent moon at the top. When the Beatles came on stage and same their songs you were supposed to realize the small house was actually an outhouse, aka a john. A-ha, therefore you were supposed to pay close attention to John’s song “Tea for two and two for tea”.  And that of course would be T 4 2, or T4.2 map coordinates. Going there you receive the business card with a number to call, call the number and get the following message “Listen to all the words”. Tea for two and Two for Tea, you were supposed to exchange the numbers of the phone number. T for 2 and 2 for T. On the phone keypad the T is an 8 so all 2’s become 8’s and all 8’s become 2’s. Call that number and you get a new message “Put your phone number on the little white ball and drop it in the hole at the bottom of the sea”. What??? Smart people somehow figured out that you write your number on the ping pong ball in the goodie bags, run all the way back to the elipse to the big black keyboard and lo and behold at the bottom of the block that would represent the C there was a hole. Bingo! You won!

So how well did you do?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, gosh! That is absolutely wild. I'm so glad you posted this story - I've never heard about this before. But it seems really, really cool. Sorry you didn't win! :( ;)